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DIY RV Cord Reel

RV electric cord real for 50A lifeline.

DIY RV Cord Reel

September 23, 2021 – Shane

Organize your RV basement with a simple DIY project!

Skill Level: Beginner
Time: Half an Hour
Price: Under $40
Benefits: Priceless

RV electric cord real for 50A lifeline.
50A Camper lifeline on our manual cord reel.

Your RV’s cord can be a hassle. It’s one of the last items you put away and one of the first ones to come out, but there just isn’t an easy place to store it. And what if it’s raining? Nothing like 35 feet of muddy lifeline wadded up on top of your lawn chairs and drinking hose. Throw it in the bed of your truck and sooner or later it will sprout legs and walk away.

My final straw was when I pulled it out of the basement in the pouring rain and it caught on my tool bag. And then my bucket of water hose and fittings. And my step stool. And the brand new role of blue shop towels. So now all of my tools were wet and muddy and so were the towels to clean them with. I went searching for a better solution.

A tangled mess of RV electric cord in the basement of our 5th wheel.
A big old mess in our 5th wheel basement when we don’t roll up the muddy cord.

A cord reel seemed like the most logical answer. There are two sets of options:

  1. Detached cord or permanently wired.
  2. Powered or manual crank

The first option is simple. Is your cord hardwired to your rig or does it detach from an outside receptacle? A permanently wired lifeline has a lot of things to consider and is best installed by someone with a lot of experience with electricity. We won’t tackle a hardwired reel today. Our Keystone Montana 5th wheel is like most newer 50A RVs and has a detachable cord. That’s what we will be winding up and putting away.

A powered reel is convenient and fast. However, they have a few things that concern me.

  • They tend to be very wide. This would block a lot of the entrance to my basement.
  • You’re going to have to run power to them. Powered cord winders need electricity, which means wire, fuses, and switches. While the wiring is well within my skill-set, it sure seems like a lot of work for something so simple.
  • Cost. Powered reels are a bit pricey and I’d thrown my shoulder out from constantly reaching for my wallet.

A manual reel would suit me fine. Simple, reliable, small footprint, minimal installation, and relatively inexpensive. This unit from MORryde fits the bill. Four bolts and you’re set to go. Time to grab the credit card. . .wait! What’s this?

Harbor Freight air hose reel used to roll up camper electric cord.
Manual air hose reel that works great for an RV electric cord reel.

A manual air hose reel is fairly heavy-duty without being nearly as heavy. It’s only 9 lbs. vs. 25 lbs.
It’s tall and narrow, leaving plenty of room to get into my basement.
It installs with the same four bolts.
Even better, it’s was 1/5th the price!

These reels are available at all sorts of retailers, from Amazon to Harbor Freight. They’ve been a staple in garages and shops for years because of their simplicity and reliability.

PARTS:

TOOLS

  • Pencil, pen or marker
  • Tape measure
  • Socket or open end wrench to fit the lag bolts

The links lead to Amazon, where we will make a small commission off of a purchase. The price you pay will not be affected.

So let’s get started!

  1. Assemble the crank. The handle may not be attached depending on where you bought it from.
  2. Place the reel where it’s most convenient. Being right-handed, I placed mine near the left wall so that I had plenty of room to turn the handle on the right. I also had a fire extinguisher and other tools mounted on that wall, so I moved it out about XXX inches. It will also work best if it’s back a few inches from the door so that the ends of the cord don’t get in the way. Take a few measurements to make sure it’s square to the door and wall (I cheated and laid a piece of scrap lumber next to the wall for a spacer).
  3. Look around and make sure that there aren’t any wires, water lines, or gas pipes running where you’ll be drilling.
  4. Mark your hole locations. Set the reel assembly aside.

  1. Drill the four pilot holes where you marked them. I used 5/16-18 lag bolts which need a 7/32” pilot hole or smaller. An easy way to tell the right size is to hold the bolt in front of the drill bit. If you can see the bit through the threads, it’s too big. You want the hole to be small enough that the threads catch but not so small that the wood splits.
  2. Insert one of the lag bolts into a mounting hole of the cord reel. If the head of the bolt doesn’t cover the hole, you’ll need to add a washer to each one.
  3. Place the reel back over the holes. Begin installing your four lag bolts. I used one inch long bolts to prevent them from sticking through the floor too far and possibly rubbing on something. Long bolts will also run out of thread and not hold in the flooring.
  4. Once the four bolts are almost tight, adjust the reel to it’s final position. Snug down one bolt and then verify the reel is square. Snug the other 3 bolts. Don’t over tighten the lag bolts or you’ll strip out the holes and your reel won’t stay in place.
Bolted air hose reel used as a cord winder.
Our cord winder bolted to the basement floor.
  1. With your power cord unplugged from the RV and the power pedestal, stretch the cord out straight. Bring one end of the cord to the other, folding the cord in half.
  2. The center point of your cord will be about the middle of that bend. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just approximate. Wipe off the cord at the center point and then put a few wraps of electric tape around the cord. The black electric tape sticks well to the cord. It’s also easy to find when putting away the cord without being ugly like paint or zip ties.
Marking the center of our RV power cord.
Marking the center of our camper power cord.
  1. Grasp your newly marked center of the cord and carry it to your basement door. Drape the center over one arm of the reel.
  2. Lay the rest of the cord in a straight line perpendicular to the RV. You can lay it in a pile, but it’s easier to wind up if it’s straight.
Starting to wind our power cord onto our electric wire cord reel.
  1. Begin winding the reel with your right hand. If the cord is dirty or wet, hold a rag loosely around the cord with your left hand. Gently guide the cord onto the fingers of the reel.
  2. Troubleshooting: The cord may be a bit stiff the first few times and not want to fit between the support brackets. Squeeze the halves together until they pass through. This will fit better each time you wind it up.
  3. HINT: Don’t let that area under the crank handle go to waste. I store my water hose, filter, regulator and pliers in a bucket. Like the lifeline, it’s one of the last things put away, so I found a bucket that slides under the handle. . . no more worrying about storage for my hose or electric!
Air hose reel with 50A electric cord from 5th wheel stored on it.
Our RV power cord conveniently stored on an air hose reel.

Comment below and tell us how the project worked for you!

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